Preparedness for Practice

I’m involved in a research project investigating newly graduated nurse practitioner’s perceptions of their preparedness to practice.  Participants will be asked to give their thoughts about how well the education program prepared them to work as an NP.  There have been many changes in NP legislation and to models of primary health care in our province in the past decade which have had a strong impact on NP practice as a whole.   I teach in an NP program and continue to work in a casual basis as an NP, so I’m very interested in learning about facilitators and barriers faced by novice NPs.

This work has me thinking not only about novice NPs, but also about the preparedness for practice for all of us…RNs, NPs, etc.  With the mountains of evidence put out each year and seemingly continuous changes in the health care environment, are any of us really ‘prepared’ to take on the challenges of work, no matter when we graduated?  Does preparedness fluctuate throughout our careers?

I love Patricia Benner’s work “From Novice to Expert”.  I bought the original book when I was in my undergrad program, many years ago.  I take it out and leaf through it when I have questions like the one I’m pondering today.  In my mind, she accurately described the levels of practice expertise in nursing. While it may not be possible to teach someone how to be an expert nurse, or nurse practitioner, it may be possible to make sure that students a) understand what it means to be a novice and b) ensure they have the knowledge, skills, judgment and resources required to move toward expert status.

Hopefully our research will show us what NPs in our province require to become practice experts. I’m sure that part of this will be the implementation of evidence. By this, I mean not only work like the critical analysis of research, but also recognition of organizational policies and a good understanding of the role of the patient in the implementation of healthcare treatment plans.

Nursing practice is messy and complex.  It’s good to ask the tough questions about how well we are preparing nurses to practice and what new and experienced nurses need to continue to feel prepared in their work. Maybe I’ll have some answers to share with you.

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